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Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Is It Innovation vs Sustainability?

We have been working on innovation policy for several years and innovation is certainly the Brussels buzzword this year, particularly since the appointment of the new Research & Innovation Commissioner and the long-awaited launch last week of the Commission Innovation Union strategy, a strategy that was largely welcomed by industry and other stakeholders. 

At the Knowledge4Innovation 2nd Innovation Summit in Brussels today, the strategy was called “ambitious”, albeit with some cynicism, and the speed of change planned was described as “breathtaking”.  We also heard from the European Commission and Council that innovation should be considered in public procurement.  Public procurement represents 17% of EU GDP according to the speakers.  And this leaves me wondering how this ‘innovation-friendly public procurement’ will impact the ongoing discussion on green public procurement. 

Environmentally-sound purchasing and innovation-friendly procuring are not necessarily the same thing.  Or are they?  If the Innovation Union strategy is going to be the cornerstone of the Europe 2020 strategy as promised, then the focus on smart and green growth which guides the Europe 2020 should also carry across into the public procurement part. 

Are there innovative technologies which are not environmentally-sound?  Presumably.  Or there could be more sustainable technologies or products which are  not supported as they are seen as being less innovative.  How to reconcile sustainability and innovation?  It will be interesting to see how this debate develops.  It’s early days and the Council and Parliament haven’t had the chance to have their say on the proposal yet.  The whole Innovation Union strategy will be discussed in the first thematic European Council on Innovation in December.  So we’ll be watching closely to see how this develops.

Image: knowledge4innovation.eu

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